No way back for Pollard and Bravo?

We have to hand it to him. 

The President of the West Indies Cricket Board(WICB) definitely has bravado, guts and political savvy, traits that are necessary for dealing with arguably the most controversial, scrutinised and criticised position in the region. 

Dave Cameron has pioneered a series of Town Hall meetings throughout the cricket playing territories of the West Indies and exposed himself to questioning and inviting comments from the public, the average fan in the stands, in a region of six million cricket loving people who all believe they are experts in the field. His last stop was the twin-isle republic of Trinidad and Tobago this Friday, home of recently deposed West Indies Captains Dinesh Ramdin and Merrissa Aguliera and discarded West Indian T20 marketing kingpins Dwayne Bravo and Keiron Pollard. Unlike the previous engagements, his vice-President Emmanuel Nanthan did not make the trip. Airline trouble was blamed, which is not too hard to believe given the failings throughout the region, but an understandable desire to skip this part of the tour would also be just as believeable a reason.

Mr.Cameron conducted himself well with the know-how of a skilled practitioner in the sales arena boosted by his education in the tourism industry and in the political gayelle that is West Indies cricket administration. While not on par with the training grounds of FIFA that has made Jack Warner one or the wiliest politicians to set foot in Trinidad and Tobago's parliament, the WICB has enough of its own unique intrigue to keep novices away (mainly in the form of ex-players). Cameron expressed his vision, the accomplishments of the Board and the way forward as he spoke first before opening the floor. Among the more notable items is the creation of a separate marketing entity for West Indies Cricket that would (hopefully) keep the brand separate from the political bachanaal. While not many details were available just yet, we can envision the logic behind being able to use images of Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Keiron Pollard and former greats of the game despite them not being on the field and would presume this would be along the lines of what the WICB would want. Another notable achivement was the creation, or improvement, of the 'Cricket Industry' in the region wherein over 100 young men are now professional cricketers through the issuance of contracts by the board and the elongation of the regional 4-day cricket season. Were it not for the unresolved, controversial issues still hanging over our collective cricketing heads many would be satisfied with the way forward for West Indies cricket based on Cameron's words.

However, controversies still abound and despite this effort at communication and transparency by the board many rumours still circulate as to the true running of the beloved game that undermine the way forward. When the time came for questions after a calm introduction that included a plea for the WICB to rescue the Tarouba stadium from being under the auspices of ANY Trinidad and Tobago administration,  Jeffery Guillen of a proud local cricketing family, wasted no time in getting things off to a rollicking start. Cameron was served with a bouncer as he was asked in no uncertain terms (although Guillen did state that "resign" seemed like a harsh word) as to why he was still the President of the West Indies Cricket Board after the organisation was being sued for $42M for actions that were completely internal to the organisation? It made sense. In any other business, if actions that were not affected by any external influence resulted in tht potential loss somebody would have to stand the consequences and it would most likely be the CEO and/or President/Chairman of said entity. Guillen elaborated that no-one was disciplined (officially) despite a WICB task force producing a 'report' putting the blame on the WICB, WIPA and the players. Basically everybody. 

Cameron ducked with the experience of a first class cricketer. He stated that it was his repsonsibility as President to resolve the mess as opposed to running from it and that the board, and all involved, have learnt from the incident. Guillen was not satisfied but in the end the result was there for all to see: no resignation. The matter of discipline is one that will be looked at though. Perhaps Cameron will have a word with the INDEPENDENT disciplinary committee is already in place. There were several other contributions by the relatively small crowd on hand regarding WICB assistance for Women's, Blind, Youth and Community Cricket as well as insurance and care for injured cricketers. Many systems were already in place for each of these and Cameron was at pains to ask those requesting more to state what they have already received under his current administration.

The difficult questions soon returned though. Earlier in the day, Coach of the West Indies team Phil Simmons revealed that Clive Lloyd and himself were outvoted 3-2 in the selection committee due to external pressure regarding the return of Bravo and Pollard in the limited overs format of the game. This was met with a straight bat by Cameron who emphasized that the Selection Committee was INDEPENDENT and he himself is surprised at the selections sometimes. He justified this stance by saying that everytime someone gives him a list as to who should be selected he can tell which country they are from, a statement which many in the crowd (reluctantly?) agreed with.

When questioned as to many players no longer being part of the West Indies Player's Association (WIPA), Cameron stated he had heard so but was not concerned. He expanded on the fact that players could still talk with the board on their own but the Collective Bargaining Agreement which governs contracts will only be negotiated through WIPA. Though not stated, Mr. Cameron's sporting outlook may well be that a "team is only as strong as its bench" as he emphasized the fact that we have a wider pool of players to pick from who will now have no excuses in terms of fitness and improvement due to them now being professional, when questioned as to the concerns of so many marquee players retiring from Test cricket due to the CBA in its current form.

Another pressing matter was the WICB's vote for India, Australia and England to now have the lion's share of the decision making in world cricket due to their having the lion's share of revenue generating tours. The benefit of this move was to scrap the future tours programme which had the WICB hosting unprofitable tours which contributed greatly to the WICB being constantly in debt (along with the many cases lost to WIPA under Dinanath Ramanarine, something he has also resolved). This allows the WICB to only schedule profitable tours (ie not Bangladesh and Zimbabwe) and hope that the West Indies can end 20 years of poor performances over the next 2 years to ensure that other nations do not  feel the same way about our non-profitable tours to their shores.

When pressed further on his opinion as to what it would take for the exile of Pollard and Bravo to end, Cameron could give no answer or "was not in a position to answer that" or more accurately was not able to give a personal opinion due to his position. 

Cameron may not have played too many crowd pleasing strokes but he batted with a stout defence to salvage a draw and reduce the contest to a stalemate. This seems indicative of the cricket expected during his tenure. After so many years of defeat, maybe having players who will not please the crowd but hopefully nurture the discipline to just hang around and play each ball with a flat bat is what is needed to end the slide before looking to climb again. It would make sense if reality didn't demand that the West Indies perform now in order to stay at the top table of the cricketing world. We are already out of the ICC Champions Trophy 2016 by not being in the top 8 teams in the world and are now worth just a three test series to Australia this December.

Things need to change soon for the West Indies to remain relevant as an opponent for other teams, especially without our own most marketable assets. Not having the best players representing an already small population in comparison to most of our opponents introduces unnecessary obstacles of our own making. Hopefully the stalemate reminds all involved that there will be no winners in this political game that is being played with our beloved game.

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